9/6/73-9/20/73

[Posted 11/6/07]

Summit was seeking Federal disaster relief from the Aug. 2 rainstorm that dumped 8 inches on us. By 9/13, everyone was still talking about the big cleanup.  A major problem was over in New Providence with the Salt Brook.

Dr. Donald Geddis, principal, welcomed 1,129 students to high school [we had 390 or so in our class, if I remember right].  Geddis called on the student body and staff to make this a “banner year” [applause] and we would achieve this by “working together.”  [more applause]

Of course sophomore year was really not about us…but one Willie Wilson, now a senior.

“Powerful Summit High Drilling For Season Opener on Sept. 22”

9-0 the previous year, with a Group 3 sectional title under its belt, as well as five straight Suburban Conference titles, the 1973 edition of the Hilltoppers was loaded.

6-3, 190-lb. “whirlwind” Willie Wilson had the 2nd-highest scoring total in the state his junior year (156 points) and the All-Stater was labeled “Mr. Everything.”

But Summit also had another outstanding runner in Ernie Gwathney, plus fullback Chuck Wiebe, receivers Johnny Foushee and Anthony Zackery, as well as a new quarterback, George Gross.

“One thing is certain: Summit will have another powerful team,” reported the Herald.

Other figures who were in the pre-season articles were linemen such as Dave Mugford, Richard Jenkins, Dave Collins, Kevin Davis, Bob Gregory, and Kevin Dunne.  Others on ‘D’ included John Coyne, Rob Kelley, and Rick Portine, while all the above offensive contributors played defense as well.  Coach Howie Anderson also labeled our classmate, Jeff Hunt, an “exceptional player who only needs experience.”

So we are set for Group 4 Piscataway at 1:30 from Tatlock Field, Sept. 22.

One other sports bit.  Ernie Gwathney’s older brother Jim, now a sophomore at Montclair State, returned a kickoff for a touchdown.  [Loved watching Jim as a kid.]

And, separately, a 4-BR Colonial in the Brayton School district was selling for $70,000+ [today, despite the slump, it would easily still go for over $1mm], while at The Strand was “The Day of the Jackel.”

——

But I just wanted to tell you briefly of my time with Willie Wilson in Kansas City on Oct. 25-26. He was moderating an event at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum there and assembled some Royals and Yankees from the 1977 ALCS, including players such as Amos Otis, Frank White, Dennis Leonard, Dock Ellis and Paul Blair.  I was there because I co-sponsored it and had a chance to spend some time with Willie, especially the second day.

He’s doing well and divides his time between Toronto and K.C.  Plus he attends all the golf outings and shows that his former teammates and contemporaries hold.  I had a chance to ask him about the recruiting process that you all remember so vividly in those days and how he came to choose baseball over football, despite signing a letter of intent to attend Maryland.  As he readily admitted, $90,000 was a nice incentive.  But because there was uncertainty over whether he would still play football, he slipped to 18th in the first round of the June draft (1974) when many were talking of him as the #1 overall pick.

You’ll have to allow me to relate some stories over the coming year, 1973-74, that is, as I chronicle it in this space.  Willie and I agreed to keep in touch and, heck, this column is Willie Wilson Central for all your WW news!  I’ve talked to a number of you, as well as some learned authorities in the world of sports, and everyone agrees; we were so lucky to have been going to school at a time when we could watch one of the great athletes in America…of any era.

More…Dec. 6.  Summit vs. Piscataway.

BT

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